October 4 - 6, 2019
We managed to squeeze in one final Sierra trip to Emigrant Wilderness before winter slammed the door. The weather looked to be clear all day and freezing overnight. It was also hunting season -- Emigrant is a Wilderness Area and plays by different rules than a National Park. To celebrate, we added bits of blaze orange to our already fashion forward hiking clothes.
After the standard pre-dawn departure, we picked up our permit at Summit Ranger Station (which takes about 10 seconds) and made our way to the Kennedy Meadows trailhead along 108. We stopped at the quaint Kennedy Meadows store, where the woman behind the register was so inexplicably rude to us that another customer came briefly to our confused defense. (I imagine she’d been dealing with hairy PCT hikers all summer, but they couldn’t have been... that bad?)
And then it was up, up, and more up into the high(er) country of Emigrant Wilderness.
After a few hours of sandy trail, we finally crossed Summit Creek and took off cross country up the tilted granite slabs towards Iceland Lake.
We detoured briefly to see Ridge Lake, which did not disappoint.
We chased the sunset to Iceland Lake. We set up camp in a hurry and scrambled up the rocks to eat dinner and catch the last of the day.
We stayed up for a while lazily shooting the shit in the sudden darkness. All at once we got quite cold and headed for the warmth of our quilts.
The forecast called for temperatures at or below freezing. We camped in a sheltered spot up and away from Iceland Lake, but despite our best efforts it was still damn cold overnight.
The morning was clear and cold. (I looked at this photo many times before noticing that one of my friends is in it.)
We spent the first hour walking directly into the mouth of the rising sun which -- after awhile -- is completely maddening.
It was early October, but winter was on its way.
We followed the conga line of lakes towards Granite Dome -- Iceland, Ridge, Sardella, Lewis. They were uniformly lovely.
Our plan was to skirt the eastern shore of the Upper Lewis Lake, but the topography (just out of view to the right of this photo) looked too cliffy and complex.
We instead worked our way above the west side of the lake and followed a lovely line up and over the eastern flank of Granite Dome. Our route zig zagged up the rocks to the left of the snow. It looked like someone before us had crampon'ed straight up the snow field…
...but on closer inspection, it wasn’t a person at all.
As usual, we were presented with a brand new world on the south side of our little Granite Dome "pass." The narrow strip of blue in the upper right is Long Lake, where we would stop for lunch.
We worked our way down to the lovely valley and ponds east of Post Corral Canyon. This nameless area -- which barely registers on a map -- turned out to be the highlight of my trip.
The long, meandering descent from the ponds to Long Lake was fantastic: lovely granite and gentle, lightly forested slopes.
The rest of the afternoon was a bit of a blur. My energy bottomed out around Deer Lake. I was still getting over a surprise case of Salmonella, and my energy reserves were questionable. We’d had grander plans for the afternoon, but found ourselves plopped down for the night along Emigrant Lake, where we saw our first other humans of the day.
It was cold again overnight, the wind howling along the ridgeline above us. The morning was cold and still.
We climbed towards Mosquito Pass, shedding layers every few minutes.
The rest of the day was spent following Summit Creek back to the trailhead. It was a fairly boring blur of sandy trail that didn’t warrant a lot of photos. A few hours of driving and several bags of gas station chips lead us back home.